The Tournament of Roses, Pasadena, 1890s

by Paul R. Spitzzeri

The Valley Hunt Club, formed in 1888 in Pasadena, is an exclusive social club operating from its unmarked headquarters on the former “Millionaires Row” on South Orange Grove Avenue.

Two years after its founding, club leaders decided to create a New Year’s Day event to promote Pasadena.  The result was the Tournament of Roses, the title of which highlighted the fragrant flower, as well as a chivalric sense of sport befitting the well-to-do society that members of the club embodied.

This detail from a 2 January 1890 article in the Los Angeles Times shows some of the description of the first Tournament of Roses.

Such sporting events as chariot races, jousting, tug-of-war, polo, and foot races were held and entrants to the parade festooned their carriages with roses.  The event proved to be so popular that the club decided it could no longer handle the management of it and a Tournament of Roses Association was created in 1895.

Seven years later, the Rose Bowl football game was introduced, though the lopsided 49-0 shellacking wrought by the University of Michigan on Stanford University led organizers to replace the game with chariot races.  In 1916, however, the football game was brought back and has become the trademarked “Granddaddy of Them All” when it comes to the dozens and dozens of bowl games that exist today.

rose-parade-route-1890sThe Tournament has a “Never on a Sunday” tradition, stemming from a disinclination to interrupt religious services and, yes, startle horses tied to hitching posts outside of churches. The 2017 New Year’s Day is, of course, this coming Sunday, the parade and game are being held on Monday the 2nd.

The football game features the 6th-ranked Penn State Nittany Lions, who are back to a prominence not seen since the dramatic scandal involving sex abuse scandals during the long tenure of coach Joe Paterno, and the 9th-ranked University of Southern California Trojans, who overcame a shaky start and has had its own struggles and scandals in recent years to come on strong during the later stages of the season.  Check out this article from yesterday’s Los Angeles Times about both teams.

The parade, featuring increasingly sophisticated and more complex floats a world away from the simple floral-decorated carriages of 120 years ago, will again be viewed by thousands along the route and by millions on television.

The accompanying cabinet card photograph from the Homestead’s collection shows the parade moving down Colorado Boulevard.  Obviously, there are a few more spectators (dressed slightly differently) along the route (which is a bit more urbanized) and the participants have more complicated entries!

Here is a portion of a Times article from 31 December 1890 about the next day’s edition of the parade.

For more on the Tournament of Roses from the Association website, click here.  An interesting 2004 article from the Times on the Valley Hunt Club can be found here.

This blog will feature other early Rose Parade photos from the museum’s collection over the next few days, so check back for more great Tournament images!

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